Saturday, February 20, 2016

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Jason of Star Command: "Secret of the Ancients" (October 13, 1979)

The Saturday morning adventures continue in Jason of Star Command's swashbuckling episode "Secret of the Ancients," first aired in late 1979.  

Here, the manipulative Dragos (Sid Haig) promises to save Jason's (Craig Littler's) life if only Professor Parsafoot (Charlie Dell) deciphers the mysterious star disk of the "Tantalutions" now in the despot's possession.

Parsafoot agrees, and Jason is rescued from space. Very quickly, Parsafoot learns that the disk functions as a "matter transmitter."  Specifically, it can send any life-form into another dimension, a kind of cosmic "limbo."

When Commander Stone (John Russell) attacks Dragos' dragon ship, Dragos sends the unfortunate commander into this very limbo. And when Matt Daringstar betrays Dragos, the madman sends the boy, Parsafoot and Jason into  the eerie limbo world as well...

Although it lacks a stop-motion monster, "Secret of the Ancients" is a fun episode in terms of characterization.  Parsafoot must make a choice between helping Jason and sacrificing his principles, or letting Jason die. Jason -- though alive -- is disappointed by his final selection.

Even more interestingly, Jason continues his unofficial tutorship of Matt Daringstar (Clete Keith), turning the conflicted boy from the dark side, as it were, and towards the light. Jason does so, largely, by asking Matt if he'd rather be rich, or have friends who really care about him.

In the age of President Carter's "Crisis of  Confidence" speech, this is not a small concern, and Jason of Star Command does a nice job of depicting Daringstar's choice.  Would he rather be rich, in the service of a monster, or be his own man; one that he can take pride in?

I also enjoyed the deepening of the Commander Stone character here. In "Secret of the Ancients," Stone reveals that he bears some unknown "personal score" to settle with Dragos, and launches Star Fire 3 to take him on. The mission fails, but Jason ribs the by-the-book commander about his decision to endanger himself on a mission.  "Not exactly by the book," he notes, and Stone admits that "there are times when the book is inadequate," but then quickly recants.  "I'll deny I ever said that."

Alas, despite the fast pace and excellent outer space effects for the age, Jason of Star Command showcases the limit of its budget this week.

When Jason escapes from prison, he leads one of Dragos' spaghetti-monster aliens on a merry chase down a high-tech corridor. One hallway is seen again and again, from different angles during the chase, and the re-use of the set is plain. Also, when Jason disables one of Drago's computers, it's not clear what he precisely has done to it. He just stamps his feet behind the console, and it explodes! 

Finally, the episode ends with another cool JOSC cliffhanger: the roar of an unseen monster in the mist-filled limbo.  I hope this promises a cool stop-motion monster in next week's show...

All in all, this episode is a pretty good build-up from last week's arc opener, but it's a disappointment that Samantha (Tamara Dobson) continues to be sidelined when there is so much more to explore regarding her "amnesia" and character background.

Next week: "The Power of the Star Disk."  

1 comment:

  1. John nice review of this excellent JOSC episode. This is why Filmation's JOSC equaled the prime time Buck Rogers.